Campaigns put some lawmakers on truant list Push for higher office hurts attendance

WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON -- Running for higher office appears to be hazardous for attendance at roll call votes in Congress. If Congress had an attendance officer, the No. 1 truant on the list would be Republican Representative Larry J. Hopkins of Kentucky, according to a study released yesterday.

Mr. Hopkins, who was running for governor of Kentucky much of the year, showed up for 36 percent of the House's 428 roll call votes in 1991, according to the annual study released by the private Roll Call Report Syndicate, which specializes in congressional accountability issues.


The next-lowest percentage in the House belonged to Democrat Mel Levine of California, who is contending for a Democratic Senate nomination and was present for 60 percent of the votes. In the Senate, David Pryor, D-Ark., who had medical problems, participated in 54 percent of the 280 roll calls.

Overall in the House, 26 Democrats and seven Republicans had attendance records of less than 90 percent. In the Senate, four Democrats and one Republican were in that category, the study showed.


The average attendance was 95.1% in the House and 97.4% in the Senate. Lawmakers had to cast a yea or nay to be counted in attendance.

The Maryland delegation attendance records ranged from 95 percent for Representative Kweisi Mfume D-7th, to 100 percent for Democratic Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes. Maryland's other senator, Democrat Barbara A. Mikulski, participated in 99 percent of the roll call votes.

Representatives Wayne T. Gilchrest, R-1st; Benjamin L. Cardin, D-3rd; and Tom McMillen, D-4th, had 99 percent attendance records. Representative Steny H. Hoyer, D-5th, was present for 98 percent of the votes, and Representatives Beverly B. Byron, D-6th; Helen Delich Bentley R-2nd; and Constance A. Morella, R-8th, were present for 97 percent.

The drive for the presidential nomination took its toll on the attendance of two Democratic senators, Iowa's Tom Harkin (75 percent) and Nebraska's Bob Kerrey (81 percent). The only other senators with attendance records of less than 90 percent were California Democrat Alan Cranston (83 percent), who underwent surgery for prostate cancer, and North Carolina Republican Jesse Helms (88 percent).

Five other House members had attendance records below 80 percent: Democrats Robert J. Mrazek of New York (64 percent), William Lehman of Florida (70 percent, resulting from illness), Mervyn M. Dymally of California (74 percent) and Harold E. Ford of Tennessee (76 percent); and one Republican, Clyde C. Holloway of Louisiana (79 percent).

Eight House members -- five Republicans and three Democrats -- and 19 senators -- 12 Democrats, including Mr. Sarbanes, and seven Republicans -- had perfect records.

House leaders traditionally help keep attendance high by scheduling most votes in midweek, allowing long weekends.